When Valerie Hamilton was diagnosed with locally advanced triple-negative breast cancer, she knew it would change her life. But she also thought it would significantly change her body.
Because Valerie had a large tumor, other doctors had explained she’d need a mastectomy. Even with reconstruction options, the thought of this procedure was paralyzing. How was Valerie supposed to adjust to a new body after 56 years in the one she loved? And what about the recovery — and the time it would force her to spend away from her husband, her family, her church, and the tenth-grade special-needs students she taught?
- Another hospital told Valerie her locally advanced breast cancer would require a mastectomy.
- A second opinion at MSK led to a treatment plan that wouldn’t change the body she loved.
- Valerie was treated with chemotherapy first, which shrunk her tumors.
- This allowed for a less invasive, but no less effective, procedure called a lumpectomy.
- The plan created by her doctors allowed her to keep spending time with her family and her students.
Deborah Capko at Memorial Sloan Kettering thought there could be another option. Valerie’s cancer could be treated with chemotherapy prior to surgery, shrinking her tumors and eliminating the need for a mastectomy.
Dr. Capko was right: Valerie had a fantastic response to chemotherapy. Her tumor shrank, and she was treated with a far less invasive lumpectomy surgery, along with radiation, that left her body the way that she wanted it to be.
All through treatment and beyond, Valerie was able to keep her body and her life just the way she liked them. As a woman, a wife, a mother, a teacher, and a churchgoer, Valerie didn’t miss a day of doing what she loved.